An investigation by Fox 2 Detroit and the Michigan Campaign Finance Network shows the family that owns the Ambassador Bridge made large campaign contributions to Detroit City Council candidates ahead of the 2017 election. But those contributions were not made public until after the elections were long over.
Manuel “Matty” Moroun owns the Ambassador Bridge Company and Central Transport, a trucking company. Moroun and his family have clashed repeatedly with local and state politicians over plans to build a second bridge span, and opposition to the publicly funded Gordie Howe International Bridge project.
The Morouns contributed nearly $200,000 to a number of Detroit City Council campaigns using super PACs. Super PACs are PACs -- political action committees -- that can accept unlimited political donations. Corporations and unions are allowed to contribute to super PACs, in addition to individuals. Federal campaign finance law requires 48-hour or 24-hours reports of independent expenditures made before the day of the election. State law does not have a similar requirement.
The report found that the Morouns made the bulk of their political donations through super PACs which were solely funded by the Moroun family and their businesses.
Craig Mauger is with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. “Because the spending wasn't reported to have happened until right on the election, it didn't have to be disclosed to the public until January 2018. So some people are looking at that and saying, 'Hey this is a possible way to get around letting the public know what you're doing,'” says Mauger.
According to Mauger, super PACs also influenced 2017 elections in Royal Oak and East Lansing. “This is something that's going to happen more and more because more and more money is going to super PACs, and this is a pretty easy way for super PACs to spend their money in the late stages before the election and not have to tell public about what they're doing until many months later,” says Mauger.
According to the report, the Morouns contributed $28,526 to support Jewel Ware in the Detroit 5th District race against Mary Sheffield through the People First super PAC, $51,493 to support Roy McCalister Jr. in the 2nd District race through the Turn Around Wayne County super PAC, and $19,263 to support Tyrone Carter and against Raquel Castaneda-Lopez in the 6th District race through the Detroit Community Impact Committee. Turn Around Wayne County also spent $1,919 in support of Scott Benson in the 3rd District.
Moroun family members individually contributed to Janee Ayers, an at-large candidate, Brenda Jones, an at-large candidate, George Cushingberry in the 2nd District, and Jewel Ware in the 5th District.
Of those races, Moroun-supported candidates Roy McCalister Jr., Scott Benson, Janee Ayers, and Brenda Jones were elected.